Information-Seeking Behavior of Medical Residents in Clinical Practice in Bahia, Brazil* *

Article excerpt


In the last twenty years, several researchers around the world have explored issues related to information and clinical practice [1-6] and the role of the librarian in this context [7-11]. Several studies have focused specifically on residents' information needs and behavior [12-16]. This body of research indicates that preceptors serve as preferred information sources for many residents [12, 15], rather than textbooks or other resources [1, 17-19]. Additional studies have illustrated that residents may encounter a number of questions in clinical practice [15, 16], most frequently relating to topics such as therapy or diagnosis [13, 15, 20]. However, clinical questions are not often pursued by residents [12, 15]. Among pursued questions, the answers to these questions have been shown to change the management of the patient in up to 70% of the cases [15]. Common obstacles in the information-seeking process identified by residents include lack of time, doubt about the existence of relevant information, retrieval of too much information, and difficulties with navigation and searching [6, 14-16]. Few studies have focused specifically on health professionals' information needs in Brazil [19, 21-23], and none of these included residents.

Residency training in Brazil

Medical residency in Brazil is a graduate-level course of study, a specialization characterized by training in the clinical environment under medical professionals' supervision [24, 25] and limited by law to sixty hours per week. An individual residency may last two or three years; some specialties (e.g., cardiology, plastic surgery, angiology) require a second residency in either general medicine or general surgery [26], thus requiring a total of five to six years to complete.

Residents at the Professor Edgar Santos University Hospital (HUPES) of the Federal University of Bahia Medical College (UFBA-FAMEB) in Salvador, the capital city of the Brazilian state of Bahia, have direct access to several important resources including the HUPES Library, the UFBA-FAMEB Library, freely accessible regional and international electronic databases, and the Capes Portal , a powerful information tool providing access to several databases and more than ten thousand full-text scientific journals.

To explore the information needs and behavior of housestaff at this institution, the researchers surveyed a group of residents from October 2004 through December 2004. The team hypothesized that (a) consultation of scientific information constituted a crucial element of patient care; (b) residents were familiar with available information resources; and (c) they were able to handle these resources efficiently. This survey also aimed to identify the role of health sciences libraries and resources available in Brazil in meeting physicians' information needs for clinical practice.



In 2004, 120 residents were enrolled at HUPES in 23 different specialties. For the survey, all residents in the third year of residency were selected due to the small size of the group (n=17) relative to those in other years of residency. For each third-year resident, 2 residents in the first year and 2 in the second year were randomly selected from a list of residents, resulting in a final pool of 85 residents.

Survey techniques

The authors employed a survey [27] with a critical incident component [28] to explore residents' reported information needs and behavior.

Questionnaire design

Investigators developed a six-part questionnaire with thirty-five questions (Appendix online) exploring: (1) demographic data, (2) respondents' behavior when faced with a clinical information need, (3) habits and preferences for information resources management, (4) information-related skills, (5) most frequent information needs, and (6) examination of a particular situation in which the resident needed information to support clinical care. …